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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill (April 9, 2020 – Update) – Certain areas of the country are experiencing shortages of albuterol inhalers. The shortage will probably spread throughout the U.S., although it is not a production problem. The shortage is occurring because of the increased use of albuterol inhalers in hospitals for COVID-19 and suspected COVID-19 patients to help with respiratory issues. There is a concern that nebulizers used on patients with COVID-19 in the hospital could spread the virus in the air. But the possible risk is to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 – not to patients using their nebulizer at home as directed.
It is important if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you may have COVID-19 and are using a nebulizer at home, that you know the virus may persist in droplets in the air for 1-2 hours. Therefore, you should administer nebulized albuterol in a location that minimizes exposure to members of your household who aren’t infected. Choose a location for your treatment where air is not recirculated into the home – places like a porch or patio, or in a garage – areas where surfaces can be cleaned more easily or may not need cleaning.
What should you do if you or your child are having trouble getting an albuterol inhaler? The recommendations below from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offer practical ideas for coping:
- First, don’t panic. Check your inhaler to make sure it still has medicine.
- If necessary, you can likely use your expired albuterol inhaler as it is probably still at least partially effective.
- If you can’t get a refill on your metered dose inhaler, contact your allergist or health care provider as there are other options available which they can prescribe.
- It is important that you not overuse your albuterol inhaler, as one canister should last for months.
UPDATE: On April 8, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first generic albuterol inhaler in the United States. The move was in response to inhaler shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and should increase the supply of inhalers in the country.
“We learned of possible shortages about a month ago, and with the introduction of this inhaler we have a generic product to add to the supply,” says allergist Michael Blaiss, MD, ACAAI Executive Medical Director. “While shortages may not be occurring in every part of the country, we want patients to know they may now have additional options if they are having an issue getting their medicine.”
ACAAI will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.
Updated April 9, 2020